Community groups prepare for worrying planning reforms

The White Paper on planning reform in NSW is due to be released by the state government in coming days or weeks, and after the indications given in last year’s Green Paper many people in the community are worried.

Representatives from local community groups meeting to discuss planning reform

Representatives from local community groups meeting to discuss planning reform

The Green Paper raised the prospect of radically altering the system from one where communities have a say in developments in their local area to one where any projects that meets a pre-existing plan would receive automatic approval.  It promises ‘more flexible’ land zoning (code for rules free) and moots the removal of consideration of cumulative impacts by Councils and other consenting authorities.

In short, it would be complete open slather for developers, with the potential to transform communities throughout the state into masses of high rise apartments or ‘McMansions’ with little thought for whether infrastructure or the local environment was able to cope.

With the government seemingly hellbent on the course set out in the Green Paper the best chance of securing a fair and balanced planning system likely rests with informing the community about how it will affect them.  To this end I successfully moved a motion at February’s Council meeting calling on the City to support, through grant funding and access to venues, community groups looking to hold forums on the matter.

In preparation for the White Paper’s release I facilitated a meeting of community groups from throughout the City of Sydney Local Government Area to discuss tactics for disseminating information and fighting for a better deal.  We were addressed by Corrine Fisher from the Better Planning Network, a group affiliated with over 350 other community organisations throughout NSW who are dedicated to creating a fair and sustainable planning system.  So far they have done a great job of increasing public awareness of the Green Paper and getting the message across to key decision makers and their input at our meeting was most helpful.

The meeting was highly productive and I am confident that the groups who attended will be able to make a positive contribution to the public discussion of the White Paper.  We don’t know when it will appear (though it could be as soon as tomorrow) or what it will contain, but the community will be ready to meet any challenges it presents head on.

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